Historic Car Brands
There have been several ‘Invicta’ car makes, including one Italian and two early British companies – not to mention the hideous Buick Invicta of the 1960s – but the ‘real’ Invicta, the company that innovated beyond its theoretical capacity, was the brainchild of Noel Macklin.
Sir (Albert) Noel Campbell Macklin (1886–1946) was an innovative British car maker and boat designer. He founded the limited-production companies – Eric-Campbell in 1919 and Silver Hawk in 1920 – before starting Invicta in 1925, in his own converted stable.
The prototype was powered by a Coventry-Climax 2.5-litre six, but Macklin judged the performance somewhat lacking.
The production Invicta 2½-litre used a Meadows straight six, overhead-valve engine and four-speed gearbox in a chassis with semi-elliptic leaf springs. It was available in two different chassis lengths to suit the customer’s choice of bodywork.
Invictas scored ready market acceptance and some of the construction work was outsourced, but final assembly and test was done at Macklin’s establishment. The engine grew to three litres in 1926 and 4.5 litres in late-1928.
Sporting success for Invicta came early on. Violette Cordery, who was Noel Macklin’s sister-in-law, won the half-mile sprint at the West Kent Motor Club meeting at Brooklands in 1925. In March 1926 Cordery was part of a team of six drivers that set multiple long distance records at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in Italy, covering 10,000 miles at 56.47mph, and 15,000 miles at 55.76 mph.
Violette Cordery at the wheel.
In July 1926, at the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry track in Paris, they covered 5000 miles at 70.7mph.
Cordery was twice awarded the Dewar Trophy, latterly in 1929 for driving 30,000 miles (48,000 km) in 30,000 minutes (20.8 days) at Brooklands, averaging 61.57 mph.
But there’s more: between February and July 1927 Cordery drove an Invicta around the world, accompanied by a nurse, a mechanic and an RAC observer. They covered 10,266 miles in five months, at an average 24.6mph, crossing Europe, Africa, India, Australia, the United States and Canada.
Invicta S-type – Foshie
A larger Meadows engine was used in the William Watson designed 1929 4½ litre NLC chassis available in short or long versions and a less expensive A Type replaced the NLC in 1930.
1931 Invicta S-type chassis
In 1930 the Invicta S-type was launched at the London Motor Show, using the 4.5-litre Meadows engine but in a low chassis with an underslung rear axle. As The Autocar then put it:
‘Being designed as a sports model it has been built very low, with the reduction in height having been obtained by curving the chassis side members downwards behind the radiator, then continuing them at a low level, so that they extend below the rear axle, instead of above it, as is more usual.’
1930 invicta S-type – Goodwood Racing – Fred Smith pic
In 1930, Donald Healey gained a class win in the Monte Carlo Rally in an S-type; won the event outright in 1931 and scored a second place in 1932. Making his 1930 class win the more remarkable was the fact that he’d slid off the road in the early stages, bending the chassis that made the axles misaligned.
S C H ‘Sammy’ Davis had a spectacular accident in an S-type at Brooklands in 1931.
Raymond Mays took the Brooklands Mountain Circuit Class Record in 1931 and 1932 and the outright Shelsley Walsh Sports Car Record in the latter year.
About 75 S-types were made.
1931 Invicta S-type engine – Lothar Spurzem
In an attempt to widen Invicta’s market appeal the 1.5-litre, straight-six, overhead-cam Blackburne-engined 12/45 L-type was announced in 1932. It was a large car, on a three-metre wheelbase and proved too heavy for the available power, needing a 6:1 rear axle ratio. It was available with a pre-selector gearbox as an option and most had coachwork by Carbodies.
The supercharged 12/90 of 1933 increased the available power from 45 to 90 bhp, but few were made and a proposed twin-cam 12/100 never got beyond a prototype.
Car production seems to have finished in 1935. Noel Macklin went on to found Railton, who used the Cobham buildings to make their cars after Invicta moved to Chelsea in 1933. An attempted revival using Delage and Darracq components failed to get off the ground. Following the collapse of an attempted sale, the court made an order for the compulsory winding up of Invicta Cars Limited on 3 May 1938.
Invicta Black Prince – Gosford Classic Cars
The Invicta name was revived in 1946 by a company that backed ex-Invicta and ex-Lagonda designer, Willy Watson, who was previously involved in the design of the 1924 Invicta.
Invicta Black Prince – Gosford Classic Cars
Watson’s concept was ground-breaking. The Invicta Black Prince unashamedly targeted Bentley and Rolls Royce, offering fully-independent suspension, via chassis-mounted torsion bars and Morgan-like sliding pillars. Electric power allowed the siding pillars to operate as electric jacks.
1947 Invicta brochure chassis pic
A three-litre, dual-overhead-camshaft Meadows engine with triple SU carburettors gave 120hp. A Brockhouse Hydro-Kinetic Turbo Transmitter – a torque converter – did away with the need for a gearbox. The torque converter was controlled by a small switch for engaging forward and reverse directions.
Invicta Black Prince engine – Automobiles en Scene
Because of the post-War steel shortage and a surplus of aircraft-aluminium sheet, the closed or open bodywork was aluminium.
Other innovations included a trickle-charger, to charge the battery from the domestic mains, an immersion heater in the engine, interior heating of the body and a built-in radio. Sixteen Black Princes were made and 12 have survived.
However, he new Invicta company lasted until 1950, when it was bought by Frazer Nash makers, AFN Ltd.
But there’s more…
Invicta S1 – Edvvc
At the 2002 British International Motor Show the Invicta S1 was launched. This supercar was the brainchild of Michael Bristow, who bought the Invicta brand in 1980. The S1 had a carbon-fibre body over a tubular step space frame and Ford V8 power, up to 600hp with supercharging, and speed claims up to 200mph (320km/h).
The venture failed and in 2012 the owners changed the company name before liquidation, to avoid the brand-humiliation of a fourth financial collapse for Invicta.
Invicta logo – Foshie